A Note on Book Reviews
I will always keep my reviews spoiler free and will focus more on my opinion and other aspects. This has been adapted from a post on my blog at http://lovesandhatesofagrumpyyoungwoman.wordpress.com/
He is normally a horror writer and one of my favourite authors and I have read a large number of his books. He is from Maine (where most of his books are also set) and a huge number of his books have been adapted to make box office hits. Misery was the first King Novel I ever read when I was 18 and I have been in love ever since.
About Hard Case Crime
Hard Case Crime is a publishing house that specialises in Noir-style crime books and a huge range of authors are available. All of the covers of the books are beautiful and very dramatic. As a film noir fan this suits me perfectly.
Stephanie is an Intern at a small local paper and she is talking to the two owners about stories to go in that week's edition. There has also been a man hanging around the town who has been putting a number of stories together for an edition of a state magazine. He is looking for paranormal themes and this gets the old owners talking. They begin to tell a tale a number of years old of man who was found washed up on the shore and their search of how he came to be there.
I am a huge fan of King's shorter works, and this is no exception. The story had a number of details that really got me thinking and trying to figure out quite what had happened. I may not have found out but this makes the whole story more interesting as it played on my mind for a number of weeks after. This is brilliantly written with the characteristic flashes to the future - most of them morbid. There are also the crude descriptions that I so much enjoy from King. I know a lot of his other regular readers were not so impressed, however a love the slight change to writing style and the 'crime' angle. Next stop - Joyland.
Approx Pages: 184
Goodreads Rating : 3.18 ( I gave this a 4)
This book caught my attention because it was in the crime fiction section, which is not where I would expect to find a Stephen King novel. As the novel was so short and Stephen King usually writes much longer books, I thought it must be another Stephen King. It was, however, by the Stephen King, so intrigued, I took it home. The book is included in a series of books called Hard Case Crime and was reminiscent of books by the likes of Dashiell Hammett and other authors of the noir genre.
Stephen King needs little introduction. He is best known as a thriller writer of such novels as Carrie, Dolores Claiborne and The Shining. This book was a relief to Kings fans, who had heard rumours that his novel-writing days were over.
Stephanie McCann is a twenty-one year old intern at a newspaper on a small island off the coast of Maine. Her colleagues, the ninety year old Vince Teague and sixty-five year old David Bowie, pleased with her progress, tell her of an unsolved mystery a few years before. A man was found dead by two teenagers on a beach. Seemingly, he had choked to death and as no-one came forward to report a missing person, the case was relegated to police records.
A few months later, a graduate student of forensics who had been interning with the detectives involved with the case suddenly remembered something odd about the case and called Vince and David to let them know. They followed up the lead, which eventually led to the dead man being named. Yet this led to further complications. There was no reason for the dead man to have been anywhere near Maine; moreover, it seemed impossible for him to have got to where he was found since the time he was last seen in Colarado. Can Stephanie, hearing the story through the eyes of Vince and David, find a solution for the mans death?
Vince and David are your salt-of-the-earth newspapermen who have been running the newspaper on Moose-Lookit Island for decades. Years of observing people have sharpened their powers of deduction, which havent diminished with age. They admire Stephanie for her journalistic skills and decide to share their knowledge of one of the strangest cases that they have ever come across. It is refreshing to read about two people who, perhaps because they have lived on an island and havent suffered from joining the rat-race, still have an interest in their jobs and other people after so many years.
Stephanie, surprised to find that she likes island life so much, is considering staying past the end of her internship. At just 21, she has an enthusiasm for her job that I wish had now, let alone at her age. Her fondness for the two old men is touching. I found Stephanie to be a very calming, likeable character. The only thing I didnt find very realistic about her is that for such a young person, she seemed to know an awful lot about human life and relationships. Had she been a few years older, it would have been more acceptable.
Stephen King added an afterword to the book, which explains why he decided to write the book in the first place and why it was the written the way it was. He admits that this is a book fans will either love or hate. For me, who found the ending disappointing, this did help redeem the book somewhat.
I have to disagree with Stephen King. This wasnt a book that I either loved or hated. It was definitely somewhere in the middle. I enjoyed the writing style and I liked the characters, which I thought were well-portrayed considering the shortness of the book. I did find the ending disappointing; I had expected it to end differently from the way that it did, but the ending certainly didnt make it a book to hate.
What King was trying to show with the book, as he explains in the afterward, is that life is full of mysteries, not everything can be neatly finished off and closed down, as ordinary crime fiction would have us believe. I admire him for running the risk of being rubbished for writing a book that does not really end. However, I do hope that if he writes any more that he doesnt continue in this genre I think this was an interesting experiment, but the thriller genre is definitely his forte. Give it a try, but bear in mind that it is completely different from Stephen Kings usual style.
The book is available from Amazon for £3.44. Published by Dorchester Publishing it has 184 pages. ISBN: 0843955848
Stephanie Mc Cann, an up and coming Journalist is learning her trade at The Weekly Islander a small town newspaper on an island of the coast of Maine. Her mentors apparent, Vince Teague and David Bowie see the promise in the young reporter and decide to tell her their most mysterious and treasured story. This is one they vow will never be seen in print, the death of The Colorado Kid.
The Colorado Kid is Stephen Kings contribution to the Hard Crime series. According to the glowing praise inside the cover the series has been single-handedly responsible for the re-emergence of pulp fiction. This means novels meant as a good read. Popular but often sneered at by literary critics these are the shelf fillers of airports, charity shops and second hand bookshops . You know the ones, the badly illustrated, cheap novels with garish covers and poor quality paper. Needless to say as a writer who is often sneered at by critics it is not at all surprising to see him making a contribution to this market.
Kings foray into the mystery/crime market is a stripped back tale in which it is less about the plot and more about the characters. This is not to say this is a novel packed full of characterisation, imagery and setting. In fact at 184 pages it is almost completely devoid of such. Instead we are launched straight into the tale as the two old time reporters Teague and Bowie recount to newcomer Stephanie the events up to, and following the death of The Colorado Kid. This is a novel about the interplay between these three characters. Teague and Bowie gently test Stephanies reporting and deducing skills throughout the tale and her awe of them is clear to see. The retelling of the story is merely a device to test Stephanies potential, as such those expecting a traditional whodunit will undoubtedly be left disappointed.
However, this does not mean this is not a mystery novel. The chain of events leading up to the death of The Colorado Kid make this a worthy mystery novel full of riddles and with a good amount of guesswork and imagination required on the readers part. This is not a novel of twists and turns but is one that may make you feel you have been left with all the pieces to the jigsaw but none of them seem to fit. I still cannot decide whether I was disappointed by the ending or pleased and I think this will continue on subsequent re-readings. This is a novel that could be said to be just a series of hints. We are given clues to the characters , that Stephanie has a boyfriend back in Maine and that Vince may be ill and clues to the mystery but we are never really given a sense of closure. Perhaps this makes for a truly successful mystery novel?
Despite a tinge of disappointment at an abrupt conclusion to this novel it is a well written, laid back affair ideal for its market. At the aforementioned page length it is a very quick read (I managed it in one sitting) and the tone throughout is one of light hearted nostalgia. King pays obvious homage to the genre and it is refreshing to read a novel by him or anyone else devoid of complex plotlines and twisted characters. This is a novel that needs little in the way of brainpower. Read it for the humour, warmth and interplay between the characters and you will not be disappointed. Those looking for a whodunit might be better looking at Dolores Claiborne, Kings only other full length novel that comes near to a traditional crime or mystery novel.
Available at amazon.uk at a cheap and cheerful £3.44
After hearing various rumours in recent years that Stephen King was considering retiring, especially after publication of the final instalments of his Dark Tower series, which happened in 2004, news of the publication of The Colorado Kid came as something as a relief. Especially to someone like me, who has been such a fan for so long that when he addresses the foreword to his books to Constant Reader, I feel as if hes talking to me.
What was interesting is that the book was to be part of a series called Hard Case Crime, which publishes nothing but crime novels. Whilst this is an area that King has dabbled in before in short story form in Nightmares and Dreamscapes, with The Doctors Case featuring Sherlock Holmes and Umneys Last Case being an obvious homage to Raymond Chandler, its new ground for him as a novel. That said, The Dark Tower wasnt exactly Kings standard horror writing.
Stephanie McCann is a young intern working for The Weekly Islander, the local newspaper of Moose-Look Island just off the coats of Maine. After telling a feature writer from the Boston Globe that there really are no unexplained mysteries around that part of New England, her colleagues and teachers of sorts Vince Teague and Dave Bowie proceed to tell her that Moose-Look Island does have one all of their own.
They proceed to tell Stephanie a story of a man found dead on the island early on November morning some twenty five years previously, with no identification and no apparent way of getting where he did. This isnt a story with an obvious ending, nor a mystery with an obvious solution. For Stephanie, school is in, and she learns plenty about what it means to be a newspaper writer as well as what it means to be a part of the Moose-Look community as she goes.
Its a pretty simply written tale, in contrast to the mystery the tale unfolds. King has always been a pretty good story teller and that is pretty much all he does here. There is little preamble and little back story, its just these three sitting around whilst a story is told. Its a style that King has used before, with The Breathing Method from Different Seasons being written in a similar fashion, although that was more of a horror tale than a crime one. Indeed, of Kings own novels, this comes closest to Dolores Claiborne in style and substance than anything else.
Despite the nature of the tale, the way it is told gives it an easy going feel. In Kings books, and maybe for real for all I know, the people of Maine and especially the islands seem fairly easy going and laid back. This comes across in a lot of Kings writing, especially when hes using a character to do nothing but recite a story and it is true here, too. Although there is death involved, its told in a way that almost comforts the reader, as if King is trying to lull you into a false sense of security before hitting you with a huge twist right towards the end.
The disappointing part of the whole thing is that the twist never arrives. The book seems to end rather than conclude, leaving the reader a little let down. This is how it seems first time around, although on reading the story again, it actually made a lot more sense and was a lot more satisfying second time around. It was like the film eXistenZ in many ways, in that it takes a little while to appreciate the true beauty of what has happened. School is in for the reader, as well as for Stephanie McCann.
I suspect that regular crime thriller fans might be a little disappointed by this and its clear that publication of this book more of a novella than a full novel in the Hard Case Crime series has been prompted more by the name of the author than how well the book itself fits in with the series. That is to say that crime fans may not get as much out of this as other books in the genre, purely due to the nature of the tale.
As with much of King, this is a decent story, pretty well told. Unlike with much of King, it doesnt go too far out of the way on the journey, so its quite a quick and enjoyable read. Admittedly, fans who like Kings horror work best may not be too pleased and fans of crime thrillers, particularly the old style kind, will most likely finish disappointed.
As a fan of King who happens to think his non-horror work has on many occasions surpassed his horror novels, this is a joy to me. Its rare that I find a book more satisfying the second time around, so this has also been a revelation in that aspect, too.
Its not a story that will win any awards, but if youre a fan of King, particularly Dolores Claiborne and his short stories, this is definitely worth picking up. Especially as its only a small book and so a lot cheaper than youll be used to paying, at £3.44 from Amazon or from £1.32 at the Amazon Marketplace. After so many years of reading horror stories and having to work around Kings obsession with completing the journey to The Dark Tower, this comes as a very welcome change of pace, style and page count and proves to be a delightful way to spend a quiet evening or a long journey.